Worse Than Raisani
The Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L.-N) hasattained the required support to form a coalition government in Balochistan after the Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (P.K.M.P) of Mahmood Khan Achakzai and the National Party of Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch announced to join the next administration. The new coalition partners have decided to keep the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (J.U.I.-Fazal) and the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Quaid-e-Azam) out of the upcoming government because of their flawed policies in the past governments they headed. It seems a little strange considering the fact that the P.M.L-N has invited the J.U.I-F to join its government at the Center. The reason for excluding J.U.I-F from the Balochistan government could probably be P.K.M.P.’s opposition to the right wing party, which was recently heavily defeated by the latter in the Pashtun-majority districts.
The P.M.L.N’s method to lead the coalition government in Balochistan is, however, faulty. It clearly indicates P.M.L.N’s lack of respect for the local mandate. After the 2008 elections, for example, the Pakistan People’s Party, which became the main ruling party at the Center, also imposed its chief minister upon the province despite obtaining fewer seats than the P.M.L.-Q in the provincial legislature. This time, the P.M.L-N did not win most seats either but it is still determined to influence the government-formation process in Balochistan and impose its man, Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, as the chief executive of the province. What makes it easier for major political parties like the P.M.L.-N and the P.P.P. to dominate the provincial government is their ability to buy off the independent candidates.
The good news for the P.M.L.-N is the joining of Baloch and the Pashtun nationalists of the new government. These two parties are known for their progressive views and popularity among the masses. They boycotted the last general elections and have won a sizable number of seats in return of their electoral promise to their voters to bring peace and stability in Balochistan after coming into power.
What will distinguish the upcoming parliament from the previous one is the presence of a strong opposition comprising of veteran politicians from the J.U.I.-F and the P.M.L-Q. It is still not known whether or not Sardar Akhtar Mengal of the Balochistan National Party, who has been complaining about election fraud, would join the government or prefer to sit in the opposition. While joining the provincial government would contradict his allegations of fraud, sitting with the J.U.I.-F on the opposition benches would make him look even more awkward because of his longstanding opposition to the J.U.I-F. After the passage of the 18th Amendment, the provincial governments are also required to restrict the number of ministers in the provincial cabinets which means everyone who will support the future government would not necessarily become a minister, as was seen during the dark days of Nawab Aslam Raisani’s government.
What has sent waves of shock and disappointment ahead of the formation of the new government in Balochistan is the P.M.L-N’s decision to nominate a notorious tribal chief as its candidate for the office of chief minister. Sardar Sanaullah Zehri is in fact the only remaining man in the Balochistan government who remained a part of the past two governments. In 2002, he was appointed as pro-Musharraf Jam Yousaf’s Minister for Home and Tribal Affairs while he remained Nawab Aslam Raisani’s Minister for Services and General Administration (S&GAD). Mr. Zehri has a reputation as a corrupt politician, criminal and tyrant tribal chief. He is controversial to such an extent that he has disputes with almost everyone in Balochistan, ranging from his own brothers to most respected Baloch nationalist leaders like Nawab Khair Baksh Marri and Sardar Attaullah Mengal.
Since Mr. Zehri has still not been appointed as the chief minister, the P.M.L-N. should immediately withdraw his name from the race. His appointment as the head of the government will not only fail in resolving the existing crises but it will surely open new fronts of unwonted political and tribal clashes which will lead to further destabilization of Balochistan.
If elections were meant to bring a change then the P.M.L-N. should help Balochistan achieve that goal. A man who has already become deeply objectionable in the national and local media should not lead the future government. Mr. Zehri has not only taken public fights with the Marris and the Mengals but has also provided space to Mr. Sarfaraz Bugti, an ardent opponent of Nawabzada Bramadgh Bugti, the chairman of the Baloch Republican Party.
The P.M.L.-N. should take advantage of the National Party’s decision to join the coalition government and recommend veteran Baloch nationalist leader Dr. Malik Baloch as the chief minister. Dr. Baloch, a former education minister and a member of the Senate, fully understands the complexities of Baloch society and enjoys a better reputation than Mr. Zehri. Dr. Baloch is the symbol of Balochistan’s educated middle class and by supporting people like him the P.M.L-N. will also help the Baloch people get out of the cultures of tribalism. If we want to change Balochistan, we should trust and empower the educated middle class of the province. Appointment of a tribal chieftain will take us back to square one where Islamabad patronized Baloch tribal chiefs for its own benefits. Dr. Baloch may not be able to fully resolve all of Balochistan’s problems but his appointment will at least help in liberating and empowering the province’s middle class.
Published in The Baloch Hal on May 18, 2013